Lizzy McAlpine’s ‘Older’ is a soundtrack for self-discovery and adolescence

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Lizzy McAlpine-'Older' album cover art

Recommended Tracks: “Drunk, Running”, “Like It Tends To Do”, “Vortex”
Artists You Might Like: Gracie Abrams, Phoebe Bridgers, Leith Ross

Life is a series of ebbs and flows, where love rushes in when you least expect it. “It wasn’t slow, it happened fast,” folk-pop singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine muses during the opening track of her third album, Older. Feelings often come with moments of reckoning, heartbreak and even vulnerability. 

McAlpine’s raw honesty has become her staple in her music, offering listeners a glimpse into her inner world. Older arrives two years after the success of “Ceilings,” from her sophomore album Five Seconds Flat, which gained traction on TikTok. This latest album is an unfiltered exploration through McAlpine’s personal growth, as the 24-year-old grapples with the challenges of growing up in a world that can so easily let you down.

The album opens with the one-minute and 44-second song “The Elevator,” which includes the backdrop of McAlpine’s piano melody, carrying an optimistic lyrical premise. It captures the whirlwind experience of falling in love. She sings, “Can we stay like this forever? / Can we be here in this room ’til we die? I think we can make it / I hope that I’m right.” There’s hope, a sudden rush and sadness to McAlpine’s emotive vocal delivery that is a continuous thread throughout the entire 14-tracks, even if she thinks she has something to lose.

McAlpine continues to muse about this pervasive feeling in tracks like “Come Down Soon” and “Like It Tends To Do.” Despite the uncertainty and fleeting nature of happiness and good times, there remains an intimate connection between McAlpine and the person she loves that provides a feeling of hope even when it may feel like all hope is lost in “Come Down Soon.” However, this realization that happiness may not be forever, leads to “Like It Tends To,” which McAlpine said was the first song she wrote for Older. In an Apple Music interview, she called it “some of [her] best songwriting.” Yet, amidst the praise, there’s a sense of confusion and ambivalence. In the chorus, she sings, “Would you find a little window and finally make your move? / Would it feel like it felt when we had nothing to lose? / Or would everything havе changed / Like it tends to do?” It captures the uncertainty of relationships and the inevitability of change that reverberates throughout the album.

Things change as you grow older. In fact, we come to terms with the idea that change permeates every aspect of our lives. It’s an overwhelming, fast and hard feeling because there is nothing left to do. McAlpine confronts this disconnection from herself and struggles with her identity in “All Falls Down,” marking a noticeable shift in the album’s tone. Throughout the song, she delves into the ubiquitous experience of navigating existential crises. Adding another layer of personality, “I Guess” offers a detailed exploration of uncertainty and acceptance. With lyrics like, “I guess it’s all about the things you want but never get,” McAlpine captures the need to confront unfulfilled desires and the bittersweetness that comes along with it.

Continuing to explore themes of uncertainty and romance, McAlpine delves into the subject of her partner’s alcoholism in the built-up track “Drunk, Running.” Here she draws a parallel between her love for him and his struggle with addiction. We’ve all had this experience of untempered love — something unwavering. It’s overwhelming and fast, and McAlpine magnifies those universal feelings into a drums and bass guitar track. She captures this regret, heartache and vulnerability, as depicted in the lyrics, “Say ‘I love you’ / And then drink it backwards.” And so it goes, McAlpine takes themes of addictive love and turns them into another emotionally painful track “Broken Glass,” which describes the emotional hurt as if they were shards of glass. She offers a raw and unflinching portrayal of the complexities of love and addiction. 

There’s something to be said about simplicity infused with a visceral ache in the pit of your stomach. Whether it stems from a hurtful love, haunting memories, or even a dark melody, it resonates. The titular track “Older” is a sonically simple piano ballad that displays a sense of nostalgia for McAlpine’s youth and the harsh reality that adulthood isn’t as easy as once imagined. There’s a glimmer of hope in “Better Than This,” but it’s built on disconnection and loneliness as she sings, “What if I’m not a good person? / You always say that I am / But you don’t know me at all now.” Even in moments of peace, sometimes it’s the internal struggles and uncertainties of life that plague us.

McAlpine grapples with self-blame and regret in the album’s concluding track “Vortex.” In this track, she explores themes of emotional turmoil and the struggle to let go of a toxic relationship. But she is afraid to break this traumatic pattern — rather, there’s a familiarity with pain as well as a fear of loneliness. The chorus expresses a longing for closure and healing, and McAlpine sings, “Someday I’ll be able to let you go.” Learning to let go is never easy, not after having fallen so hard for them and discovered this addictive and paralyzing romance. Through “Vortex,” McAlpine provides the perfect conclusion in her search for closure and healing.

We all grapple with love, heartbreak and healing differently. Sometimes, it’s about growing older before we realize we must let go of the past even if it hurts. In her third album, McAlpine embarks on a journey of self-discovery, learning to confront and let go of this addictive feeling. Older serves as an emotional rollercoaster, navigating adulthood, while grappling with the bittersweet longing for eternal love in her search for self-acceptance.

McAlpine will be going on her North American and European tour called “The Older Tour 2024” later this month. For ticket information, click here.

Keep up with Lizzy McAlpine:
Instagram // Spotify // X // TikTok // YouTube // Facebook // Website

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